Steve Berczynskifirstname.lastname@example.org ¬ Kaneland's Ryan Fuchs gets tackled my members of the Yorkville defense after making a catch during their game Friday in Maple Park.
They square off for the first time in Saturday's 7 p.m. Class 5A second-round playoff football game. Still, Kaneland and St. Francis have seen each other's likes before.
Kaneland coach Tom Fedderly likens the eighth-seeded Spartans to Rochelle, an old-school double-wing/Wing-T outfit that uses play-action passing sparingly. St. Francis may have a different wrinkle, however, using more defense-baffling misdirection in its ground game.
St. Francis coach Greg Purnell sees No. 1 Kaneland as similar to Montini, the only team to beat the Knights in their last 24 games. Each runs a high-octane spread offense that can score in bunches using a pass offense that in both cases approximately doubles its rushing output.
Thus, for Kaneland and St. Francis it comes down to diagnosing what's coming and getting the defense off the field as quickly as possible.
"I'm concerned about them hanging onto the ball for long periods of time, long drives, keeping us out of our offense," said Fedderly, whose Knights (10-0) survived a 51-45 shootout to beat No. 16 Belvidere despite allowing 557 yards of offense.
St. Francis is fully capable of 90-yard possessions using its shell game attack that in 2008 won the 5A title in Purnell's second season in Wheaton after a long, hall of fame career in Iowa.
Running behind an offensive line that offers 6-foot-5, 278-pound junior Kyle Bosch, who has 10 Division I offers including most of the Big Ten, St. Francis (8-2) has 2,488 yards rushing.
Another junior, Jack Petrando, leads St. Francis with 1,278 yards and 16 touchdowns and also a team-high 86 tackles at linebacker. He's joined by Jeff Rutkowski, a special-teams menace and linebacker, with 430 yards rushing and 6 touchdowns; and Dan Beck's 357 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns.
Last week St. Francis used a 70-yard interception return for a touchdown by cornerback Michael Hanson to take momentum from Burlington Central in the Spartans' 27-10 first-round win.
After running straight ahead early in the game, St. Francis returned to its bread and butter behind rotating guards Peter Quirk, James Kalfas, Pat O'Connell and blocking back Rutkowski.
"Those four guys plus the execution of our misdirection really held people up," said Purnell, whose club has lost only to Montini and Marian Central this season.
Quarterback Nick Donati has completed 50 of 107 passes for 635 yards, 8 touchdowns and 6 interceptions leading to Kaneland defensive back Jacob Razo possibly adding to his 8 interceptions. Kaneland's offense looks more balanced even in pass-heavy mode.
Against Belvidere, Zack Martinelli's 14-yard catch was the Knights' sole passing touchdown out of 7, though quarterback Drew David certainly put them in position with 251 yards passing.
Jesse Balluff scored on three 1-yard runs, Quinn Buschbacher on a 43-yarder and a 4-yard run, and David himself on a 1-yard run. All told, those three combined for all of Kaneland's 227 yards rushing, and moved the Knights' ground game to 1,461 yards compared with 2,657 yards passing, all by the sophomore David.
"We want to be balanced and not one-dimensional, that will make it easier," Fedderly said. "We have to have some success running the ball."
Although Rutkowski and Beck give St. Francis viable special teams weapons, Kaneland has the supreme wild card in Buschbacher, who has returned kicks and punts for 681 yards in addition to 932 receiving.
"We always have to have Quinn make plays," Fedderly said.